with Lost City Angels and The Unseen
Orlando, FL April 14, 2005
by Jen Cray
After tragedy struck the California psychobilly trio Tiger Army three years ago (drummer Fred Hell was shot several times by would-be burglars in a friend's apartment, leaving him with a bullet that is still dangerously lodged in his head) many thought that would be the end of the band that sautéd the spirit of 1950s rock 'n' roll over a blaze of 1970s punk rock. Instead, as the band's signature opening song declares, "Tiger Army -- never dies!" With not only a replacement drummer (James Meza) stepping in but a new upright bassist as well (Jeff Roffredo), the band fronted by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Nick 13 is out on their very first headlining American tour. Dubbed the Dark Romance Tour, the bill also features two Boston punk bands- The Unseen and Lost City Angels. Having last played Orlando only six months ago when opening for Social Distortion, the crowd was modest in size but not in energy.
Lost City Angels have had all sorts of buzz surrounding their sophomore release, Broken World. Produced by Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie (Pixies, Hole, Radiohead), the album has been greeted with critical acclaim securing them a place not only on this tour, but on an upcoming Social Distortion tour, and the Warped Tour this summer. Their blend of dark lyrics, punk melodies, and hard rock attitude was not lost on the House of Blues crowd who were slowly, but surely, charmed by the blossoming band's performance. Guitarist Nicholas Bacon seems the most comfortable onstage, oozing rockstar qualities without even trying.
Following the new breed of Boston punk were 10 year veterans, The Unseen. This is a band that is so fucking punk rock that the music doesn't even matter much. Not only does lead singer Mark have the perfect red mohawk and the ultra tight black jeans, but he's got the no-difference-between-us-and-the-crowd attitude that embodies the spirit of true punk rock. When he wasn't throwing his microphone into the crowd for the audience to share the vocals, he was in the crowd himself. Quickly a large, aggressive-yet-friendly, pit formed that allowed new punks to mingle with old. It was a sweaty generational gathering urged on by the hardcore energy of The Unseen.
Such a pair of opening sets can be hard for a fresh headliner to top, but Tiger Army achieved the feat. Sounding tighter than they did six months back, the new bandmembers help formulate the "Tiger Army" sound that was forged within the talented mind of Nick 13. Bassist Jeff Roffredo especially, whom last time seemed a bit unsure of himself, was matching Nick 13's charisma inch for inch. After over 75 shows with the band, he seems to have secured his place within the tight unit. Slapping and spinning and plucking the attitude out of every song, he played a very active role in the band's sound.
Playing mostly tracks off of their latest album III:Ghost Tigers Rise, Nick 13's voice sounded hauntingly smooth on songs like "Santa Carla Twilight" (introduced as "a song about vampires"), "Roses in the Devil's Garden," (his self confessed "favorite song off the new album") and the album's high-point, "Ghostfire." It didn't seem to matter that their melodies were much slower of a tempo than the prior songs of The Unseen, the trio kept the pit going and the crowd moving without fail. This is a psychobilly band that plays more like a good old fashioned greaser rock band. If Grease's Kenicky and Danny Zuko had a band, it would be Tiger Army.